On April 24, members of the Doki Doki Anime Club took a trip up to New York, as we do every three or four months, to check out the sights, sounds and tastes of Anime culture. Our first stop was Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ. As close as you can get to Japan without leaving the country, Mitsuwa features restaurants, including an authentic Ramen stand, and a supermarket specializing in Japanese inports. From there, we took a shuttlebus into NY, where we used the subway to navigate to our favorite haunts, incuding Kinokuniya bookstore, J and L games, and the Chinatown Fair Arcade.
If you’re an Anime fan, there’s no better way to find the collectibles you want – that is, the rare DVDs, the CDs of your favorite J-Pop bands, the games, figures, stuffed animals, art books and everything else – than shopping in the Big Apple. You just have to know where to look. As mentioned before, Kinokuniya is an awesome stop, as is Elizabeth Center, Image Anime, Midtown Comics, and Forbidden Planet.
If you want to try the kind of food your favorite anime characters eat, NY is the perfect place to do it. Prior to my first NY trip, my experience with Ramen was limited to the cheap bags you find in the supermarket (of the kind perferred by starving college students). However, there’s no comparison with an authentic Ramen Bowl (if you’ve seen the early episodes of Naruto, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). There’s also a wide assortment of sushi, pastries, including taiyaki and gourmet cake, authentic bento boxes, and plenty of beverages like aloe drink (yuck) and Boss Coffee. And that’s just at Mitsuwa. Once you get into the city, there’s Yoshinoya (a Japanese fast food restaurant), Mei Lai Wah Coffee house (which has the greatest pork buns, both steamed and baked, known to man), and, located in a back alley, the dumpling place. Not to mention a wide array of sushi restaurants and stores.
While on this journey, I sought to figure out what it was about anime and Japanese culture that had such an effect on Americans. Asking around, I found that some had grown up with it, becoming attached to shows without even realizing where they came from (shows such as Speed Racer and Star Blazers, for example, were anime before the term anime even existed). Others were drawn by a chance encounter with a movie or series, forever changed by a radically different means of storytelling. As for the why, the response was always the same: there’s just some thing different, more mature, about the way animation is handled in Japan, a difference that allow the stories to be told and expressed in ways that American filmmakers are only starting to catch on to.
Altogether, the trip was a success. Now tired, poverty-striken, but pleased, we await our return by doing the one thing that Otaku are known for – watching anime.
If you are interested in taking the Anime Tour of New York, here’s a map marked with some places of interest.